Letting Go of Suffering- Week Sixteen: More Tools!

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

During this course you have been introduced to many tools which can aid you in moving out of suffering. In this  chapter, you will have the opportunity to learn how to use seven more tools.

#1

Suffer Box

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Photo Credit: Pixabay
  1. Stand in a cardboard box (or on a pillow).
  2. Suffer out loud, i.e. whine, bitch, moan, pout, etc.  Say anything and everything that comes to your mind.
  3. Exaggerate your feelings and thoughts.
  4. Stick with it until you feel an energy shift (may be 5-10-15-20 minutes).
  5. Step out of the box
  6. Identify one thing you will do to work on the situation you were suffering about.

(The Suffer Box was adapted from the Fuss Box concept, Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson, Growing Up Again: Parenting Ourselves, Parenting Our Children.)

#2

Suffer Ring

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia
  1. Pick a ring to be your suffer ring.
  2. Wear it anytime you are suffering.
  3. Check in with yourself several times a day to determine whether or not you should be wearing the ring.

(Suggestion: Keep the ring on your watch band or necklace when you aren’t using it, so you have access to it at all times.)

#3

Distract Yourself

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Photo Credit: Pixabay
  1. Go for a walk, watch a movie, play tennis, talk to a friend (on any topic other than what you are suffering about), listen to music, read a book, exercise, etc.
  2. After the suffery energy has shifted, identify one thing you are going to do to solve the problem that is related to your suffering.

#4

Release Anger

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Photo Credit: Pixabay
  1. Make a written list of all the things you are angry about. I am mad that_____. I am mad that_____. I am mad that _____.
  2. Write a poison pen letter saying all of the negative things you would like to say to the person you are angry with. Be sure to destroy the letter afterwards. This is an opportunity for you to vent. No one should ever see it.
  3. Hit a pillow with your fists or a tennis racket
  4. Stomp your feet.
  5. Twist a towel and let your anger flow into the towel.

#5

Release Fear

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Photo Credit: Pixabay
  1. Make a written list of your scares. I am scared that _____. I am scared that _____. I am scared that _____.
  2. Scream into a pillow.
  3. Call a friend and talk with them about your fear.
  4. Say positive affirmations to yourself
  5. Call someone and ask them for an affirmation.

#6

Do a Clearing

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

If you are feeling distant from someone, or you are aware you have unfinished business with them, then do a clearing. I find the model below to be very helpful.

  1. I feel _________________ (mad, sad or scared)
  2. Because when you _________________________
  3. I think it means ___________________________
  4. What I need from me is ______________________
  5. What I need from you is ______________________

Example 1:

  1. I feel scared
  2. Because when you didn’t acknowledge me when I walked into room
  3. I think it means you are mad at me
  4. What I need from me is to remind myself that I’m okay even if you are upset with me.
  5. What I need from you is to know if you are mad at me, i.e. check out your fantasy

Example 2:

  1. I feel mad
  2. Because when you do things I haven’t asked you to do
  3. I think it means you believe I’m incompetent.
  4. What I need from me is to remind myself that I am competent regardless of what you think.
  5. What I need from you is to know whether you think I am incompetent, i.e. check out your fantasy.

Most often our fantasies are wrong, but if you happen to be right, read what you wrote in the fourth line and focus on that. There may be problems that the two of you need to solve but wait until you are both feeling grounded and ready to work on them.

#7

Sharing Resentments and Appreciations

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  1. Ask a friend to work with you as learn how to share and hear resentments and appreciations.
  2. Share two resentments with your friend and listen to two of hers/his. Focus on events that have occurred recently. The person giving the resentment uses the format “I resent that you ______.” The listener responds “Thank you” or “I hear you.” When you are hearing resentments, remember that you are hearing the other person’s experience. It does not mean that you are “bad” or have done something wrong or that you have to agree with their perception. Do not defend or argue, simply listen.
  3. Share two appreciations with your friend and listen to two of hers/his. Focus on events that have occurred recently. The speaker uses the format “I appreciate that you_____.” The listener responds “Thank you” or “I hear you.”

Examples

I resent that you left the cap off of the toothpaste tube.

I resent that you didn’t put your dishes in the dishwasher.

I appreciate that you gave me a hug when I came home.

I appreciate that you called me today.

[Note: Thanks to Elaine Childs-Gowell, Jean Illsley Clarke, Al Chase, and the other therapists who created and/or revised the 1) clearing and 2) resentment and appreciation models.]

 

Every day this week, use one or two of these tools and then journal about your experience.

Day 1

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Day 2

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Day 3

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Day 4

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Day 5

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Day 6

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Day 7

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See you next Monday for the seventeenth and last lesson.

To find the lessons in this series that have already been published, click here.

Letting Go of Suffering- Week Twelve: Using Contracts to Heal

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A contract is usually an agreement between two or more people but you can also use contracts to make agreements with yourself. It is a structure that can be invaluable when you are serious about making changes in your life.

Here are some examples of this type of contract:

Example #1

Problem: I work 65 hours a week

Contract: I will work no more than 50 hours a week for the next month and will reduce my work time to 45 hours a week after that.

 

Example #2

Problem: I constantly criticize myself.

Contract: Every time I am self-critical, I will internally say the affirmation “I am worthy of respect. I will not harm myself by thought, word or deed.”

 

Example #3

Problem: I eat when I am not hungry.

Contract: For the next week, I will record every time I am tempted to eat when I’m not hungry. Next to the date and time, I will write what incident or thought triggered my desire to eat, as well as the emotion that followed the trigger.

 

Example #4

Problem: When someone asks me to do something, I automatically say yes, even when it is something I don’t want to do.

Contract: I will not say yes to requests without taking time to think about the request first.

 

In the next section, you will make a list of your self-sabotaging behaviors, such as those in the examples above. After you make your list, you will formulate a contract for each one. Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to commit to keeping a lot of contracts. The purpose of the first exercise is to help you learn how to write simple, clear contracts.

It is important that you word your contracts in a way that promotes you in being successful. For example, if you would like to exercise 5 days a week for 30 minutes, it would be best to start with a contract that says “I will exercise a minimum of 3 days a week for 20 minutes.” That way you won’t break the contract if you only do 3 or 4 sessions on a busy week. You can always do more than your contract requires.

Exercise #1

In the box below, list 4-8 behaviors you desire to change and write a contract for each one. If you have trouble identifying the changes you want to make, you might find it helpful to look through the Week 1 and Week 2 lessons of this course. If possible, complete Exercise #1 on the first day of this week so that you have the rest of the week to work on Exercise #2.

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Exercise #2

Pick two of the contracts from the list above, and commit to keeping them for the rest of the week. At the end of each day, jot down some notes about your experience.

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At the end of the week, answer the questions below:

Was it easy for you to keep the two contracts?

If it wasn’t easy, then commit to continue keeping them. It takes time to change behavior patterns.

When you are ready to add one or two new contracts to the original two, write them in the box below.

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If you would like feedback about the contracts you write, feel free to put them in the comment section. I would be happy to answer questions or make suggestions.

Pen Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

See you next Monday for the thirteenth lesson.

To find the lessons in this series that have already been published click here.

Letting Go of Suffering- Week 6: Using Affirmations to Heal

I often ask my psychotherapy clients what they would think and feel if they overheard a parent berating a child with the negative messages that they dump on themselves, e.g. “You are so stupid.” “Can’t you do anything right?” “You are selfish.”  “You are a disgrace.”

Clients often respond that they would feel angry and think that the child was being abused. I tell them when they speak that way to themselves, it is as if they were the parent who is abusing the child. In this case the child is their inner child. That awareness is often jolting enough to motivate clients to learn what they need to learn to stop the negative self talk.

Affirmations are positive statements which can be used to replace the negative messages you tell yourself. By using these positive statements, as one might use a mantra, i.e. saying them over and over, you can fill yourself with positive supportive energy instead of negative, discounting energy.

Below you will see two styles of affirmations. The affirmations in the first style are phrased so that you affirm the beliefs you want to have. These affirmations are stated as if they were already true. For example:

I belong

I am worthy

I am enough.

I am a competent, capable adult.

I am love.

I am lovable.

My needs are important.

I am learning and growing.

I deserve support.

The other option is to pick an affirmation that the healthy parent part of you says to your inner child. For example:

I love you.

Your needs are important to me.

I will teach you and guide you.

Pamela Levin and Jean Illsley Clarke created sets of developmentally based affirmations. Their affirmations use the parent to child style.

Pam Levin’s can be found her her book Cycles of Power. Some examples of her affirmations:

You have a right to be here.

You don’t have to hurry, you can take your time.

You don’t have to suffer to get your needs met.

Jean I. Clarke’s are in Growing Up Again. Here are a few of hers:

I’m glad you are you.

You can know what you need and ask for help.

You can learn when and how to disagree.

Creating Affirmations from Think Structures

You can use the Think Structures you wrote in Week Four and Week Five‘s Letting Go of Suffering assignments to create personalized affirmations. (The Think Structure and this affirmation structure are processes created by Pam Levin (Cycles of Power.)

I will show you how to create affirmations using this Think Structure:

  1. I am scared
  2. That if I ask for what I want
  3. I will be ridiculed or punished
  4. Instead of being heard and supported
  5. So I pout, isolate and don’t ask for what I want.

To form the affirmation, you will use the 2nd and 4th line of the Think Structure.

So my affirmation would be:

I do ask for what I want and I am heard and supported.

Create affirmations from some of the Think Structures you wrote during the last two weeks. If you have not seen or done those assignments, consider going back to those lessons and completing them.

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If you like, you can use your Think Structure affirmations when you do the affirmation exercise I will describe in the next section of this post.

Another way you can  use your Think Structure affirmations is to set up life situations that will facilitate your healing. Using the example above, I could let my friends know that I am focusing on asking for what I want and would like to practice doing that with them. I could also let them know that when I ask for what I want, I would like to be heard and supported. (Being heard and supported doesn’t mean they will give you whatever you ask for. A long time ago, I practiced this exercise with someone by asking him if he would pay for my Masters of Nursing degree. He was very honoring of my request but, of course, did not agree to fund my education!)

Using the Affirmation

Pick one of the affirmations from this lesson, or create one of your own. For the rest of the week say it at least 1000 times a day; 5,000-10,000 would be even better! It is fine for you to say it internally, going as fast as you want. (A short mantra can be repeated 1,000 times or more in 20 minutes.) You can count using a tally counter from an office supply store or an app such as iPhone’s Counter +.

Even though this lesson only lasts a week, it would be best if you continue to say the same affirmation for 21 days. If you say it in the higher range (i.e. 10,000 a day or more) you may find that it starts flowing through your mind automatically. You may even wake up during the night and realize you were saying it in your sleep. Imagine what it would feel like to be listening to positive thoughts throughout the night instead of your self-critical ones.

What if my mind is fighting the affirmation?

Sometimes a particular affirmation is so far from what you believe, you may find yourself very resistant to saying it. If that is the case, take a piece of paper and make two columns on it. On the left side write your affirmation and on the right side write the negative response that comes to your mind. Keep doing that until you have written the positive one 50 times. Here is an example:

Positive affirmation               Discount

My needs are important…      No they aren’t

My needs are important…      I should be needless and wantless

My needs are important…      It isn’t safe for me to have needs

My needs are important…      No they aren’t

My needs are important…      No they aren’t

My needs are important…      That statement is nonsense

etc.

Do this two column affirmation exercise for several days if you need to and then start saying the 1,000 repetitions of the positive affirmation each day. Or do the 50 written affirmations in the morning and then say the affirmation during the rest of the day. As you continue to write and/or say the affirmation, the negative messages will decrease and then stop.

Another thing you can do when you find negative thoughts coming into your mind when you say the affirmation is to speed up the rate you are saying the affirmation. Speed it up until you drown out the negative message.

Journaling

Take a few minutes each day this week to write about your experiences with the affirmation.

Day 1

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Day 2

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Day 3

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Day 4

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Day 5

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Day 6

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Day 7

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See you next Monday for the seventh lesson.

To find the lessons in this series that have already been published, click here.

Letting Go of Worry

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“Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”

 Arthur Somers Roche

Think about how much time you have spent worrying during your life. Did all of your worrying help you in any way or in hindsight do you think that time could have been put to better use?

How would you be different if starting today you were able to live in the present instead of immersing yourself in regrets about the past or worrying about the future? What would your life be like if you no longer worried?

Close your eyes a moment and imagine yourself living a life free of worry. Notice how your muscles relax and your breath comes and goes easier. Are you breathing deeper? What other changes do you notice in your body and mind?

Would you like to let go of your tendency to worry? If your answer is “Yes,” considering using one or more of the techniques I list below whenever you find yourself worrying.

IMG_3428Write a list of all of your worries.  “I’m worried that _________.”  Simply fill in the blank, over and over and over again, until you have listed all of the worries that you can think of. Write whatever comes to your mind whether or not it makes any sense. It is fine for you to write the same worry multiple times

IMG_3428Vince Horan, one of my co-therapists, frequently tells clients that “Fear needs information.” Take a good look at your list of worries and pick one. What information do you need to gather in order to relieve that fear? Go get it!

If you are ready to deal with more than one fear, then identify a second, third, fourth, etc. I suspect if you get the information you need, your fear will reduce, and so will your worrying

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Play the “what if” game. For example, if you are afraid that you will lose your job, the “what if” might be “I won’t have enough money.” Next ask yourself “What if you don’t have enough money?” The answer might be “I won’t be able to feed my kids.” Then ask “What if you don’t have money to feed your kids?” The response might be, “I will go to a food bank.” Keep following the thread until you realize you will be able to deal with whatever happens.

IMG_3428FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. Look at your list of worries and identify the ways you have been fooled into thinking you are in danger. Next to the false evidence, write the truth.

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Immerse yourself in the present. You may need to get so focused on the present that you think, “I am moving my spoon towards my bowl of cereal.” “I am picking up a spoonful of cereal.” “I am bringing the spoon towards my mouth.” “I am putting the spoonful of cereal into my mouth.” “I am chewing my cereal.” etc. If you focus on the present this minutely, you will become absorbed in the moment, your mind will quiet and your body will relax.

IMG_3428You can create a variation of Jean Illsley Clarke’s fuss box exercise. Stand in a box or on a pillow, or just draw a circle in the carpet with your finger and stand in the middle of it. Begin to list all of your worries out loud. Don’t stop and think, just let them pour out, even if they don’t make sense. It can be helpful to be dramatic and even to exaggerate them. At some point, you will feel done. If you’ve been dramatic and/or exaggerated, you may even find yourself laughing. When you feel finished, step away from your worry box and identify something you will do to deal with one of the problems you mentioned.

IMG_3428Many years ago, I learned a technique from a therapist named Mary Goulding. She instructed us to push our tongues into our cheeks and then talk nonstop about all of the things we criticize ourselves for. When we talk about our worries that way they, of course, sound really strange. It is another process that often ends up in laughter.

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Create an affirmation and use it as a mantra, such as “I am a competent, capable adult.” The mantra is likely to be something you don’t fully believe but would like to believe.

Say the mantra 1,000 times a day for the next 21 days. Better yet, consider saying it 10,000 to 20,000 times a day!  If you find yourself saying the affirmation and worrying at the same time, speed up the mantra. It doesn’t matter how fast you go.

Imagine the power of filling your mind with a positive belief rather than a fear-based one. If you say enough of them, you may find the affirmation flowing through your mind automatically. You may even wake up and find it streaming through your mind during the night.

IMG_3428Think of all of the challenges that have come into your life unexpectedly. Reflect on how well you dealt with those. We are usually able to deal with whatever unexpected situations occur in our lives. It is worrying about things that haven’t happened, and probably never will happen, that saps our energy and pulls us into depression, anxiety and overwhelm.

IMG_3428Actively choose where you are going to put your attention. Decide if you are going to focus on worrying or focus on something else. If you choose to focus on something else, do it.

IMG_3428Listen to music that you find soothing. As you listen, practice breathing slowly and deeply. Focus on relaxing and letting go of tension.

IMG_3428Distract yourself by doing an activity that you really enjoy. Go for a walk, work in your garden, read a book, immerse yourself in a hobby, spend time with friends, etc

IMG_3428Call a friend and tell them you are worrying. Ask for reassurance or help in problem solving.

IMG_3428Create a 3-second contract, such as those used to break fantasy addictions in some 12-step recovery groups. Your contract might be “I won’t worry for more than 3 seconds.” You won’t break the contract when you find yourself immersed in worrying; you break it if you choose to continue worrying after you have become conscious you are doing it. Sometimes having the contract is enough. If it isn’t, consider creating a consequence you will do each time you break it.

IMG_3428When you are in a worry-free state of mind, write a letter to the part of you that worries. Give him/her reassurance and ideas for moving beyond the worry. Focus on messages that will give hope or help with problem solving. Then put the letter some place where you will be able to find it when you need it. Reading guidance from a stronger part of yourself may be more effective than advice coming from another person.

I’ve shared 15 actions you could take whenever you are worrying; there are certainly more. Add any others that you know, or discover, work for you. I suggest you keep a copy of this list handy so that you can use it whenever you are worrying.

At those times, work your way through the list, in any order you desire, until you find you have shifted out of the fear. The chances are good that you will be feeling better long before you do all of them.

I will end this post with two videos.  You may even want to add them to your list of worry stopping techniques.  They sure help shift my mood!

~

What helps YOU stop worrying?

I Can Do Anything Good

Those of you who have followed me for awhile probably know that I believe affirmations can be a powerful tool in creating change.  I recommend that my psychotherapy clients use affirmations to change negative belief patterns by picking one and saying it (internally) a minimum of 1000 times a day for 21 days.

A friend showed me this video yesterday.  I loved it and hope you do to!

I Love You…

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The Challenge for Growth Prompt that started on February 2 was to say something to a child that you wish someone had said to you when you were young.  I practice a developmental form of psychotherapy that derives from Transactional Analysis.  It uses a model that says that inside of us we have a parent part, an adult part and a child part.  There are subdivisions of these parts as well.

As clients heal from their childhood traumas and learn to parent their inner children in healthy ways, I have plenty of opportunity to talk to their child parts.  As a result, I say many things that I wish had been said to me.

There are six stages of development and each one has its own developmental tasks.  For example the first stage is called the Being stage.  It lasts from 0 to 6 months of life.  Two of the tasks children are supposed to learn during the Being stage are that they are loved and wanted and that their needs are important.  If those tasks aren’t learned, it may leave a developmental gap that could last throughout life.

Pamela Levin and Jean I. Clarke both created sets of developmentally based affirmations.  Pamela’s series offers five affirmations for each stage and Jean’s has seven or eight.  Jean includes a “Love” affirmation for each stage.  If you look below, you will see the developmental tasks, the age ranges, and the Love affirmations.  A child needs to begin hearing the affirmation when the developmental stage starts and continue hearing it forever.  For example, we need to hear that we are loved and cared for from the beginning of our lives until the end.

 

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Being (0-6 months)
I love and care for you willingly.

 

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Doing (6-18 months)
I love you when you are active and when you are quiet.

 

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Thinking (18 months to 3 years)
You can become separate from me and I will continue to love you.

 

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Identity and Power (3 -6 years)
I love who you are.

 

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Structure (6-12 years)
I love you even when we differ; I love growing with you.

 

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Identity, Sexuality and Separation (13- 18 years)
My love is always with you.  I trust you to ask for my support.

 

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Interdependence (Adult)
You are lovable at every age.

 

Consider saying the age appropriate Love affirmations to children that you know… and to the “children” that live within you!

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To learn more about the stages of development, the developmental affirmations, and how to fill in developmental gaps read:

Cycles of Power by Pamela Levin

Growing Up Again by Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson

 

Challenge for Growth Prompt #5: I Am Love

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I am Love

This week’s challenge is:

“Today I repeat the affirmation ‘I am Love’.”

Occasionally I ask my psychotherapy clients what they would think if they overheard someone talking to a child the way they talk to themselves. They often respond that they would think the child was being abused. I believe when we direct endless criticism towards ourselves, it is as if we are abusing a child, but in this case it is the child within us.

One of the tools I have found helpful in stopping negative self-talk is to flood one’s mind with a single affirmation.  I’m not talking about saying the affirmation 10 times in the morning while looking in the mirror. I ask clients to say their affirmations a minimum of 1,000 times a day for 21 days. Actually, I prefer that they say it 10,000 times a day or more, or better yet, anytime their minds aren’t being used for something else!

When we flood our minds with an affirmation over a period of time, it may start flowing automatically during the day, and sometimes during the night as well. Imagine what it would be like to have something positive going through your mind day and night, instead of all of the negative messages.

This week, for one, two, three days or longer, internally repeat the affirmation “I Am Love.”  I suggest you say it at least 1,000 times a day.  (It takes 15-20 minutes to say it 1,000 times.) It will help you to stay focused if you use a tally counter from an office supply store or an app such as Counter +.  If you find yourself engaged in negative thinking during the day, start saying the affirmation again.  Be gentle with yourself no matter how many times you repeat it.  There is no right or wrong way to do this challenge.

Sometime during the week, write a post about some aspect of this topic or about experiences you have when you flood your mind with the message that you are love. Feel free to use whatever form you desire: i.e., prose, story, poem, photograph, etc.  (If you don’t have a blog, please share your experiences and thoughts in the comment section below.)

I look forward to seeing where this challenge takes you.

The article that you link to this prompt should be a new post written specifically for this challenge.

 

General Prompt Information:

New prompts will be posted at 5 a.m. (PST) every Wednesday.

Since it is easier to make behavioral changes if we focus on them one day at a time, each of the weekly challenges will start with “Today, I focus on…….” It will be up to you to decide how long you want to focus on a particular challenge— one, two, three days or even longer. At some point during the week, publish a post that relates in some way to the subject of the week.

Link your post back to this prompt post. If the pingback doesn’t work, then leave the link to your post in the comment section below.  Be sure to include “Challenge for Growth Prompts” as one of your tags.

Throughout the week, I will publish the links for the posts that were created as the result of this prompt.  I will also post the links from those who participated the previous week. That way they will be seen by anyone who comes to this page.

 

This week’s contributors to I am Love:

I Am…- Nik’s Place

It Takes a Revolution- The Seeker’s Dungeon

I Am Love- Living, Learning and Letting Go

Love Has No Borders (haibun)- Tournesol dans un Jardin

I AM love (free verse)- Traces of the Soul

     How about you?

 

Last week’s contributors to Think Before Saying Yes or No

The Making of Yes- Nik’s Place

And to the World I Say- Where Love Meets War

Why Do We Behave the Way We Do?- Living, Learning and Letting Go

Challenges for Growth Prompts #4- Annette’s Place

 

23 Affirmations for Letting Go

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1.  I learn from every mistake.

2.  Change is a necessary and important part of living.

3.  I honor my growth.

4.  I treat myself and others with respect.

5.  The old lessons were for then. It is time for me to move on. Continue reading “23 Affirmations for Letting Go”